Immigrants’ rights have been Ravi Ragbir’s cross to bear, even before he faced imminent deportation.
But a Brooklyn church tried to lighten that burden Sunday by honoring Ragbir for “exceptional service to the church and to the community it serves.”
Ragbir, a national of Trinidad and Tobago, received the Bishop’s Cross from the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island in a service at St. Ann & The Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights, the New York Daily News reported.
The rare honor was bestowed in recognition of Ragbir’s work on behalf of persecuted immigrants caught up in mean-spirited federal policy, church leaders said.
That number now includes Ragbir, 43, who faces deportation as early as Saturday, after Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials detained him last month during a routine check-in.
Ragbir, who leads the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York, was released from federal custody last week in time to attend President Trump’s State of the Union address with his wife as guests of Reps.
Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) and Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn), who have both been critical of the President’s immigration policies.
“They think I am a threat,” Ragbir said after the service. “But if I have a bishop, City Council members, a community of allies saying they don’t want me deported, then I can show the community supports me.”
Ragbir, of Trinidad and Tobago, spent two weeks in federal custody after his Jan. 11 arrest before federal Judge Katherine Forrest ruled that keeping him behind bars was “unnecessarily cruel.”
The court later ordered him back to the New York area.
“As Christians, we are called to serve the most vulnerable among us,” said the Rev. Lawrence Provenzano, bishop of the diocese, which serves Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau and Suffolk counties.
“Ravi’s dedication to those affected by unjust immigration policies, even at great personal risk, is an inspirational example of how to live out that call.”
The Diocese of Long Island convention overwhelmingly passed a resolution titled “On Long Island Becoming a Sanctuary Diocese” last November that urged all congregations “to consider providing sanctuary to immigrants and migrants” who are “targeted by xenophobia, racism and discrimination.”
Ragbir had been granted permanent residency in 1994, but it was revoked after a wire fraud conviction seven years later.